Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Editor's Note

IWPR marks the 200th edition of its Reporting Central Asia with mixed feelings.

Over nearly three years, IWPR has succeeded in increasing human rights reporting, strengthening civil society networks, and improving basic journalistic skills. We have been honoured to work with an expanding network of highly talented reporters, trainee journalists, human rights researchers and other civil society activists. Establishing offices in Almaty, Bishkek, Tashkent and Dushanbe, IWPR has provided a platform for more than 300 local voices in five countries (including Turkmenistan) to uncover facts and express views on key political, social and humanitarian issues not covered by the local press.

Internationally, IWPR has served as a unique means for lifting the veil on a regional effectively unknown, while providing workshop-based and on-the-job style professional training to more than 1,300 local journalists. Partnerships with human rights organisations have supported human rights reporting and training. Regional conferences and public seminars have served to support local dialogue and debate. Syndication of IWPR articles within the local press has placed such reports before hundreds of thousands of local readers.

Operationally, the work has been achieved with the support and cooperation of a wide network of partners, including international colleagues Internews, Freedom House, and the BBC World Service and local associates Kazak Bureau for Human rights and Rule of Law, Kyrgyz Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, Kyrgyz Youth Human Rights Organisation and the Independent Human Rights Organisation of Uzbekistan. None of the work would have been possible without generous financial support from the UK Community Fund, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the US State Department.

Yet in a region boosted to strategic prominence after 9/11, media freedoms and respect for human rights overall are in serious decline. The basing of US forces in several countries has been matched by increasing attacks on human rights activists and journalists, and other forms of political pressure, including on IWPR's own offices. Kazak journalist Sergei Duvanov, an IWPR contributor and project partner, was jailed early this year on spurious politically motivated charges, having survived a brutal assault in front of his home.

Prospects for early improvement are unclear. But despair is not the answer. Positive change only comes through a combination of grass-roots development and international awareness - for which IWPR provides front-line support. We mark this anniversary, then, with an acknowledgement of the sterling effort of the project participants to date, as well as an admission of the distance still to travel.

Anthony Borden

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